Deborah Jackson

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Arduous Journey

Announcement: Ice Tomb is now available as an eBook.

Since I’m re-releasing Ice Tomb, solo this time, I thought it only fair to provide an explanation. It’s been eight years since the book’s publication, an arduous journey for me, a learning experience. When I first received notice that Ice Tomb would be published I immediately popped the cork on a bottle of champagne. I’d devoted a year to the project, researching like a mad woman, diving into challenging topics like rocket proposals for a moon mission, a potential science station and quantum physics. I’m never one to shy away from difficult topics even if they’re extremely technical or analytical – and not exactly my cup of tea, although I find the theories of the universe intriguing to the say the least.

Little did I know that the publisher, although happy to publish my book and very pleasant in other ways, wasn’t everything I’d hoped for. They released the book without a decent round of editing and, after numerous attempts to persuade the business manager to join the eBook revolution, he refused. Marketing was non-existent, which is par for the course in small presses, but something I was unaware of at the time.

So I obtained a publicist, but I did most of the sales and promotional work myself, sending out press releases and submitting my book for review.

Some critics gave the book a great review. Other less-than-enthusiastic critics treated it to a sound thrashing.

Great reviews:

Top Pick

“Ice Tomb is set in the near future, and the science in the fiction is very plausible. A fast-paced story with plenty of twists, this book reads like a classic sci-fi tale. The characters are well drawn, the action plentiful and the outcome surprising.”

RT BOOKclub Magazine

Editor’s Pick

“She may be a new kid on the science fiction block, but Ottawa writer Deborah Jackson could well rank up there one day with the likes of Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke.”

“Ice Tomb is surprising not just for its entirely believable plot and well-crafted suspense, but because it has all the earmarks of a tale written by a sci-fi master.”

Mike Gillespie, The Ottawa Citizen

BTW, even though I live in Ottawa, I had no association with this editor whatsoever. He actually liked it without any persuasion on my part.

Not-so-great reviews: Jonathon Cowie, Concatenation

With Ice Tomb she has moved her target readership upwards to young teenagers, (reviewed after the release of Time Meddlers) (intended for adults) and for them has produced a gripping adventure that also makes for a reasonable (so-called) 'young adult' SF read. Older readers will find some of her (fortunately occasional) turn of phrase facile...(Sob) The plotting is also very contrived, (it was/is) but this will probably not matter a jot to young teenagers, especially as the rest of her writing style conveys the story with fluidity.

He uses some harsher words that I couldn’t even print. Then he goes on to bash the publisher, which I won’t include either, since I’ve said enough above and I truly do appreciate their acceptance of the book.

The review continues:

Publisher issues aside, were I back at school I would probably welcome Ice Tomb. Indeed as an adult when it comes to the science, I really can't seriously fault this. It was reasonably researched. In fact I wondered whether she had read Blankenship et al., (1993) Active volcanism beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Nature 361, 526-9? Big Brownie points here even if I have ice sheet stability problems with a part subterranean Antarctic base. Ditto personal problems with an episode of geological timing mentioned which was (northern hemisphere dominated Younger Dryas aside) one of climatic and ice sheet change as we were coming out of the last glacial, but your average SF reader (even if a scientist other than one into climatology of biosphere science) simply would not know this. Ditto the iridium record.

Which wasn’t so bad.

So I did my homework, but I wasn’t a literary genius and my plot was very contrived, probably because I watch too many movies, and let’s face it, nearly every thriller/adventure/horror film has a contrived plot.

This was the beginning of my journey from naïveté in thinking my publisher would help me produce a pristine product and underestimating the brutal world of criticism, albeit justified. I realized I desperately needed a critique group to spare me some of the humiliation by catching my mistakes before they hit the editorial desk.

Yet some people, like the kind reviewers above, loved Ice Tomb, despite all its failings. I even had questions from parents of Time Meddlers fans asking if their kids could read Ice Tomb. “No!” I insisted. “Too much adult content.”

Ice Tomb needed to be revamped and made more kid-friendly before I’d give it one more chance in the eBook world. Since readers of Time Meddlers were interested in it, I thought it deserved that chance.

But how do you revamp an aging book? I liken it to old bread. You can scrape off the mold, you can sprinkle some spices on a slice or two, but it will never be fresh bread. I tried . . . valiantly. I did remove the offensive chapter and rewrote it entirely. I tried to rework some of the passive writing and delete the clichés. One or two totally illogical sections I ripped out and replaced. I like to think of it as a reupholstered story that still retains the original thrills and science that some people actually loved and removed the most offensive aspects that some people really hated.

Of course revising an old manuscript can lead to some technical problems. I will repeat one of Jonathon Cowie’s statements: “her writing style conveys the story with fluidity.” When I write a first draft, it inevitably flows along like a rippleless river. Where I might fail in other aspects of writing, I think I have this inherent sense of rhythm and flow. When you begin ripping out this word and replacing that “facile” phrase with something more dynamic or interesting, you inevitably mess with the flow—a flow that was established years ago. So in my valiant attempt I undoubtedly threw rocks into the river and produced a few rapids, and where it would make for a rafting nightmare, I desisted.

If you’ve never read one of my books, it might be a strange journey at first. To avoid any misconceptions, let me tell you exactly what I write:

Thrillers/Modern-day adventure stories/Science fiction with some near future speculation/Mysteries . . .

. . . that often blend in historical or mythological components . . .

. . . and include a romantic subplot more often than not.

And how I write: Fast-paced, over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek (but in a fluid way ;))

If this type of story interests you, then follow the links below. I have every intention of publishing the next thriller, Sinkhole, in the near future—eight years and three middle grade time travel adventures later. Sinkhole is also kid-friendly, but not a children’s book.





If you have an iPad or iPhone, Smashwords sells copies in every format. You can also get the Kindle app for free on these devices.

Please feel free to ask me about my journey. Believe me, life is never what you expect, particularly in the writing world.


Anonymous said...

Note to self: Buy a Kobo. Congratulations on your perserverance.

Deborah Jackson said...

Thanks, Kat. Too easy to give up when you encounter obstacles. But my characters never do, so . . . It takes a great deal of hard work, but writing is a craft that can be developed and improved, and usually is if one is willing and able to put in the time and effort. Even though I grumble and gripe sometimes, I still love it.

Jim said...

audio? Cause I "read" LOTS of audio books. Also. . . if you have to pick A book of yours for me to read, which would you pick?

Deborah Jackson said...

That's a tough one. It depends on what you like. The Time Meddlers series is for children and young adults, but some adults really enjoy it too. They're fond of my characters. But you'd be better off starting with Book One, in order to get to know the characters and the ongoing thread throughout the series. Might be something you could read with your kids. If you want to read an example, I have a short series based on them called Matt and Sarah's Misadventures on my blog.

If you like thrillers, I suppose it would have to be Ice Tomb - until I release Sinkhole (which I think is better, but it's not quite ready yet). I've explained all the good and bad on my post, so you know it had some great reactions and the total opposite. I guess it's one of those "love it or hate it" books. Not exactly Martin, but might be fun to read. It's quite heavy on the science. Not in audio, I'm afraid. The editor for TM suggested it a while ago, but she wanted me to do the audio, so no.

Jim said...

no because YOU had to do it?? I think that would be awesome. Leslie told me to email a woman who wrote a book on autism and offer to read it for her gratis so it can be an audio book because she likes the way I read to Emma.

I can understand your reluctance. . . but it's kinda cool. . . just sayin'.

I've read Tales of Despereaux and Harry Potter I - V to Emma. She's read the first Spiderwick Chronicles book and a few others you might know. Is it in that age range?

Deborah Jackson said...

If you want to read for an audio . . .? No, I can read for a time, but I inevitably stumble over words and it would sound awkward. My students like the way I read, but I just can't get through a number of chapters smoothly enough. Plus I get hoarse quickly.

The age range is 10 -14, generally a bit older than Despereaux or Spiderwick, but right around Harry Potter.

Jim said...

Oh, I meant to follow up on this. I read once for some little campus organization's radio spot. I flubbed it a few times just getting my lines right. I never even had to start over, the engineer would just say, "pick up again from right before the mistake." So I would. A second later he'd play it back for me and you'd never have known he edited it.

I guess what I'm saying is, you don't HAVE to "get through a number of chapters smoothly enough". You start again where you messed up and it gets edited.

Same thing with the hoarseness. Throat dry? That's a wrap folks, see you tomorrow.

Deborah Jackson said...

Okay, so it doesn't sound hard, but it is time-consuming. Right now I have enough trouble finding the time to do revisions of my current project, prepare for the launch of the next Time Meddlers book and sift through ideas for another novel. If I do find the time I'll consider preparing an audio book, but I guess I need the support for it too :)